Hastings superintendent: nearly $1K lunch donation ‘a great surprise’

Hastings area schools lunches
Student lunch trays line a table at a Hastings elementary school on Nov. 28, 2016.

HASTINGS, Mich. (WOOD) — Black Friday came early to Hastings’ elementary schools, when a generous couple paid off nearly $1,000 in children’s overdue lunch bills.

The couple made the donation last month as a way to help parents during the holidays.

“We have a growing free and reduced lunch population,” said Hastings Area Schools Superintendent Carrie Duits.

Duits says in the past five years, the number of students who need helping paying for food has jumped from 36 percent to 49 percent. Now more than 1,300 students in the school district are on lunch assistance.

Hastings Area Schools was in the red for unpaid lunches at the four elementary schools until the local couple learned about the debt and decided to pay it off.

“It was a great surprise,” said Duits. “But at the same time, it speaks to who we are as a community and how we take care of each other.”

The couple gave an additional $200 for the at-risk program.

“We are very grateful and the students obviously and their families are grateful too,” said Duits.

The gift came with two stipulations: that the donors remain anonymous and that the recipients pay it forward.

“They really wanted to challenge all of us to think about kind acts,” said Duits.